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3 questions to Zoubeir Lafhaj, Construction 4.0 Chairholder

4 minutes of reading

Central Lille welcomes the 5th edition of the ACE Workshop which brings together world experts in construction of the future. The Construction Chair 4.0, created by Bouygues Construction and Centrale Lille in 2017, will benefit from this event. Interview with Prof. Lafhaj, holder of the chair.

interview lafhaj chaire construction centrale lille ace workshop

The ACE Workshop at Centrale Lille will bring together world experts in the construction of tomorrow. How is this strategic for the Construction Chair 4.0?

The ACE Workshop is the fruit of many years of hard work and reputation. This international collaborative workshop is more original and innovative compared to the usual international conferences, or even compared to trade fairs which bring companies together. The ACE Workshop combines both concepts. It provides an opportunity for world experts in the “construction of tomorrow” to meet. They can discuss progress made in this area and share their vision for the future.
These meetings and discussions are very important, not only for researchers, but also for companies, start-ups and students. To attend and participate in this type of close-knit event is an opportunity to get an overview of observations and benchmarks, over a period of three days.
Also, the participation of important players at the event means that we can position ourselves at an international level in this field. It’s an opportunity for debating, exchanging and sharing. It is also open to other industries and stakeholders. This is why it attracts worldwide attention. The Construction Chair 4.0 is taking full advantage of it this year.

How far have we come in the two years since the creation of the Construction Chair 4.0?

We have taken some very considerable steps forward. Firstly, with the structuring of a mixed team (Bouygues Construction and Centrale Lille) and the organisation of work within it. The fundamental step of setting up an industrial research team is already a success. Indeed, industrialists and experts from the company are working with researchers, international professors and young PhD students, and they all share the same vision. It’s more than group work, it’s teamwork.
The success of a Chair also depends on its structure which must be clear, flexible and innovative. In this way, the expertise and network for each area of industrial research is clearly identified and the method and way of working is clear and precise.

Concerning the areas of industrial research, we have already begun several cutting-edge PhD theses and research projects. For example, the connected building site, construction logistics, artificial intelligence and big data in the construction industry. We are also in the process of developing solid proficiency in the application of block chaining in the construction industry. It’s pioneering work on a global scale.
We are now well-equipped to tackle subjects of expertise in construction R&D. And so, we have reached a new phase: reinforcement and consolidation of the essentials.
We also take on the role of construction strategy consultants for several national, European and international organisations.
For this, the Construction Chair 4.0 was a pioneer. It is unique in France and has become well-known and recognised worldwide. You only have to look at the number of projects copying us – and it’s just as well! – they are seeking out our expertise for this type of project.

How do you see the future of construction and how will construction 4.0 affect the value chain in our sector?

That’s the question we are going to tackle today and over the next three days with the Keynotes of the ACE Workshop 2019. The answer to this question varies from one person to another, from one company to another, and from one country to another.
One school of thought is that off-site construction is the future. Another is for a synergy between on and off-site construction. Other hot topics at the moment include 3D printing, logistics, BIM and block chaining. In any case, construction is certainly going to undergo transformations, firstly on an organisational level, then technical.
The Construction Chair 4.0 is a dynamic, agile and innovative platform. Our aim is to become a centre of expertise in the construction of tomorrow on a European level. It will bring technical and societal innovations to construction, and with them, European values. Lastly, it is the culmination of the drive of those men and women who are passionate about construction, so it will always remain a person-centred approach.
To conclude, I’m currently writing a book on the vision of the building sites of tomorrow, which is being published this summer. I offer a precise overview of what will become of construction. I invite you all to read it to find out more!